Posts Tagged ‘keyboard’

ZX Spectrum Next Retro Keyboard PC Relies on Xilinx FPGA, Raspberry Pi Zero “Accelerator” Board (Crowdfunding)

May 2nd, 2017 12 comments

ZX Spectrum keyboard computer was launched in April 1982 in the United Kingdom, and 35 years later, a team of developers has now been working on ZX Spectrum Next somewhat resuscitating ZX Spectrum by emulating Z80 processor in a Xilinx FPGA, using an optional Raspberry Pi Zero board as an accelerator, and adding some modern features like HDMI output and WiFi.

While the case is only a 3D rendering for now, they have a working board prototype with the following specifications:

  • FPGA – Xilinx Spartan-6 FGPA emulating Z80 processor in 3.5Mhz and 7Mhz modes
  • System Memory – 512KB RAM (expandable to 1.5MB internally and 2.5MB externally)
  • Storage – SD Card slot, with DivMMC compatible protocol used in the original ZX Spectrum
  • Video
    • Hardware sprites, 256 colours mode, Timex 8×1 mode etc.
    • Output: RGB, VGA, HDMI
  • Audio – 3x AY-3-8912 audio chips with stereo output + FM sound
  • Networking – Optional WiFi module
  • Joystick – DB9 compatible with Cursor, Kempston and Interface 2 protocols (selectable)
  • PS/2 port – Mouse with Kempston mode emulation and an external keyboard
  • Special – Multiface functionality for memory access, savegames, cheats etc.
  • Tape support – Mic and Ear ports for tape loading and saving
  • Expansion – Original external bus expansion port and accelerator expansion port for Raspberry Pi Zero
  • Misc – Real Time Clock (optional), internal speaker (optional)
  • Power Supply – 9V

Spectrum Next board can also fit into the original case, if you find the new design too… well new.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is used to bring OpenGL support to the ZX Spectrum, as well as more memory and a faster processor, so beside running retro apps on the ZX Spectrum Next, you can also run apps that would not work before. The good news is that the board already works, and you can run program in normal or accelerated mode, Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and more. The source code for the FPGA’s Z80 core will be released to the community.

ZX Spectrum Next has launched on Kickstarter, and has been rather popular so far having raised over £412,111 out of its £250,000 goal. If you want to upgrade your old enclosure, you could pledge £99 ($128 US) for the board only, but if you want the full package with the new enclosure, you’ll have to pledge at least £175 ($226). It’s probably not coincidence that’s the same price as the original ZX Spectrum with 48KB RAM when it launched in April 1982. Delivery for the board only is schedule for August 2017, while you’re expected to wait until January 2018 for the full version. Shipping adds 10 quids to the United Kingdom, and 25 quids to the rest of the world.

The Register reports there is no relationship between RCL, the company behind the failed ZX Spectrum-branded Vega and Vega+ consoles, and the team working on ZX Spectrum Next.

Via Liliputing

Vensmile K8 Keyboard PC includes a Touch Panel & Flexible Keyboard

October 13th, 2016 9 comments

I’ve seen some strange and/or innovative mini PCs over the years, and Vensmile K8 certainly gets into the top products of that category. That’s basically a mini PC powered by an Intel Atom Cherry Trail processor, but with the top cover acting as a touch panel, and the device is also connected to flexible QWERTY keyboard.

vensmile-k8Vensmile K8 flexible keyboard PC specifications:

Folded Keyboard PC

Folded K8 Keyboard PC

  • SoC – Intel Atom x5-Z8300 “Cherry Trail” quad core processor @ 1.44 GHz / 1.84 GHz with Intel Gen8 HD graphics (2W SDP)
  • System Memory –  4 GB DDR3L (option for 2GB)
  • Storage – 64 GB eMMC flash (option for 32GB) + micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Touch Panel – 10 point capacitive touch panel
  • Keyboard – 87-key flexible QWERTY keyboard
  • Video Output – HDMI and VGA ports
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, built-in microphone
  • Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 with external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – Power button; reset pinhole; power, standby and keyboard (numlock?) LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions – 385 x 120 x 15 mm

The obvious advantage is that it’s highly portable compared to other solutions, as when it’s folded, it looks as big as a wallet, but I’m still not convinced this form factor will become popular. The device ships pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home 64-bit, and the power supply, a HDMI cable, and a user’s manual in English are included in the package.


Current price will probably put many people off, as Vensmile K8 is sold for $284 including shipping for the version with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage [Update: It’s also listed for pre-order on GeekBuying for $199.99 with shipping scheduled in 12 days]. You’ll find a few more pictures on Alibaba. If you want a foldable keyboard PC with similar specs, PiPo KB2 / Vensmile K1 should be more affordable at around $100, except I have not seen either for sale yet, despite an expected May 2016 release…


PiPO KB2 is a Foldable Keyboard PC Running Windows 10

April 19th, 2016 4 comments

We’ve already seen a few Windows 10 keyboard PCs, that look similar to the good old Commodore 64, are now being sold, such as K3 Wintel, but PiPO, a manufacturer that likes to try new ideas, has now designed a foldable keyboard PC powered by a Cherry Trail processor, and featuring a battery and support for WiDi for a cable-free experience.PiPO_KB2

PiPO KB2 foldable computer specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor @ 1.44 GHz / 1.84 GHz with Intel Gen8 Graphics
  • System Memory – 2 or 4 GB RAM
  • Storage – 32 or 64 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio Output – HDMI and 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.0, WiDi support
  • USB – 1x micro USB port, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0
  • Foldable QWERTY keyboard
  • Battery – 2500 mAh
The mini PC, or however you want to call it, will run Windows 10 Home.


PiPO KB2 should become available in May, with pricing not decided or announced yet, but we do not the company plans to launch it via a crowdfunding platform. The video below starts with KB1, a “standard” Bay Trail keyboard PC, jump to 1:30 if you are only interested in KB2.

Via NetbookItalia

K3 Wintel Windows 10 Keyboard PC Review

March 14th, 2016 16 comments

GeekBuying sent me K3 Wintel keyboard computer since I was interesting in testing a device in this form factor, and at the time I listed the specifications, and took a few pictures of the device and its internals. I’ve now completed the review, and found it to perform very well for a Bay Trail computer.

K3 Wintel Key Computer Setup & System Info

But the initial part of the review did not start so well, as I was asked for a license key for the device as went through the initial setup right after selecting my languages and regional settings.

K3_Keyboard_PC_InstallationGeekBuying clearly states the mini computer comes with a “Licensed Windows 10”, and I could not find any on the device or the user’s guide, which appears to be a near-exact copy of a Windows 10 Lenovo tablet PC user’s guide… So I contacted GeekBuying, and after a few days, they replied, not with a product key, but by asking me to click on the Accessibility icon on the bottom left corner to setup the network…

I did that, but obviously there was no network options, only options for magnifier, on-screen keyboard, high contrast, etc…  But then I discovered a “Do it later” text appears on top of the accessibility icon, so I clicked that, went through the remaining of setup options, and I could finally use Windows 10.

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The only odd thing was that the desktop background was not the default one, but instead a sports car…  However, the “System” window in the control panels confirms Windows 10 is activated. Other parameters are fine with Intel Atom Z3735F processor @ 1.33 GHz with 2.0 GB RAM running the 32-bit version of Windows 10 Home

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The whole setup  process was a little unusual, so I’m not 100% sure if the copy of Windows 10 is legit.

Windows 10 resolution was set to 1080p50, and the keyboard PC boots very fast, as I can get to the login screen in less than 15 seconds. One annoyance was that the system would go to sleep mode automatically after a host while, even as I was downloading files in Firefox, or extracting files from a zip file. So I went to Power Options and found out the default Plan was to sleep after 10 minutes of “inactivity”.

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I changed that to “Never” and it fixed the issue.

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The Device Manager shows Bluetooth is supported, WiFi is done Realtek RTL8723BS module, and Ethernet via a Davicom DM9621A USB to Ethernet adapter.


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HWiNFO32 shows basically the same information as other Intel Bay Trail Z3735F mini PC, except  the BIOS/UEFI binary is specific to the hardware with version k702_windows.

K3 Wintel Keyboard PC Benchmarks

As with other Windows based device, I’ve run PCMark 8 benchmark starting with the conventional / baseline version, and K3 Wintel got 1,021 points compared to 1,052 points for MeLE PCG03 (Windows 10) and 1,116 points with MeLE PCG01 (Windows 8.1)

K3_Wintel_PCMark8_Home_ConventionalYou can read the detailed results on 3DMark website.

I’ve also run the Accelerated version of PCMark 8.0 benchmark, and the device achieved only 1,017 points, while in theory it should have been faster. I did not run the benchmark on other Z3735F devices, so it could be that OpenCL is not supported by Bay Trail GPU (TBC). Other low power devices with more recent processors achieved slightly better results, including 1,492 points in MINI NGC-1 powered by Intel Celeron N3150 (Braswell), and 1,428 points in Voyo V3 based on Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor (Cherry Trail).

K3_Wintel_PCMark8_Home_AcceleratedYou can get the PCMark8 Accelerated results for K3 Wintel here.

The last benchmark was 3DMark, and Fire Strike 1.1 crashed the Windows drivers like on some other Bay Trail devices, but the other three benchmarks went through.

K3_Wintel_3DMarkSo K3 keyboard computer achieved respectively 410, 1,164, and 13,711 points in Sky Diver 1.0, Cloud gate 1.1, and Ice Storm 1.2, while MeLE PCG01 stick based on the same hardware achieved 439, 1,156 and 14,069 points, so basically the same results.

The 32GB internal eMMC flash is quite fast for a low cost device, and even faster than the results I got with MeLE PCG03, especially with regards to write speed (130.2 MB/s vs 75 MB/s).

K3_Wintel_Keyboard_Computer_CrystalDiskMark_eMMC_flashK3 Wintel Usability Testing

Benchmarks were rather satisfying with results as expected, and in the case of internal storage even exceeding my expectations. I’ve also run a few typical tasks with the keyboard:

  • Web Browsing in Edge
    • Loading multiple tabs with CNX Software blog
    • Playing an Embedded Video
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga)
    • Playing 1080p Video in Full Screen mode for several hours
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi with 1080p and 4K videos

The performance is basically the same as experience on MeLE PCG03 thanks to proper cooling. Browsing was including YouTube video playback, and after 3 hours the device could still play videos very smoothly.Candy Crush was also playable, but it took me a little while to find out how to use the touchpad to move the candies around: double tap + move.

Actually at first during my testing, I connected a USB keyboard to my Keyboard PC, and I agree that seems stupid but I only did that because I not find the Print Screen button on the 76-key keyboard on the device. Finally, I discovered that Alt+Gr+F2 would do the trick. I’m not been able to do drag and drop or moving windows, so I decided to connected an external USB mouse, but in my case this had the side effect of completely losing keyboard and mouse control, so I have to disconnect the mouse and power cycle the device.

Asphalt 8 played fine with decent frame rate, but for people who prefer to use arrow keys they are quite narrowly positioned, and you’d have a better experience with ASDW keys instead.

Kodi 16 was able to play 1080p video, and 4K (H.264) videos at 24/30 fps with working automatic frame rate switching, and handled DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 pass-through perfectly, just like in my previous experience with Kodi on Atom Z3735F mini PCs. 4K H.265 decoding, and pass-through for DTS-HD and TrueHD are not supported.

The system also never throttled during my testing despite a room temperature of about 30 C, so the keyboard form factor allowing for larger cooling plates does help in this regards.

K3_Wintel_Temperature_HWINFO32I’ve done most of the tests using WiFi, and I only tested Ethernet, limited to 10/100M, at the end of the review.


Overall, I’m very satisfied by K3 keyboard computer as it performs consistently and as fast as many other Intel Bay Trail or Cherry Trail computers I’ve tested, if not faster. However, the Windows 10 setup procedure was a little confusing, some default settings made the device go to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity, and in my case at least, connecting USB mouse caused the system’s keyboard and mouse pointer to stopped working properly.

You also have to wonder whether you really need a keyboard computer. It may bring back some fond memories of the Commodore 64, and it may be fun to show your cool and different gadget to your friend , but I found it awkward to use mostly because of the touchpad, and so far I have not found a way to drag and drop or move the current window, but the 76-key keyboard was also confusing at time. It’s also not really portable since you’ve got the power and HDMI cables attached, and considering you have mini PCs and TV sticks nowadays, such system are likely more user-friendly with a proper wired or wireless keyboard.

I’d like to thanks GeekBuying for sending a review sample, and you could consider purchasing the device for $114.99 on their website ($99.99 with FLVMNIMQ coupon). The product is only listed on few other sites such as Banggood, but K3 Wintel looks exactly the same hardware as T20 / K702 Keyboard PC that runs both Windows 10 and Android 4.4, and sold for $118.90 on Focalprice.

K3 Wintel Keyboard PC Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

February 8th, 2016 28 comments

Keyboard computers have made a – rather quiet – comeback with products like PiPo K1 and T20 keyboard PCs running Windows 10 and/or Android 4.4, and Geekbuying has now sent me another model with K3 Wintel keyboard PC powered by Intel Atom Z3735F processor with 2GB RAM and 32GB eMMC flash. I’ll go through the specifications first, before taking pictures of the keyboard, and tearing it down to see how it has been made.

K3 Keyboard computer specifications

The hardware specifications are similar to other Bay Trail mini PCs and sticks except for the added keyboard:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz / 1.83 GHz (Turbo) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB LPDDR3L
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC + micro SD card slot
  • Keyboard – 76-key keyboard with touchpanel
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, and VGA
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, RTC battery
  • Power Supply – 5V/2.5A
  • Dimensions – 287 x 125 x 26.5 mm
  • Weight – 304 grams

The keyboard is said to run Windows 10 activated, i.e. with a proper license. They also claim that while TV sticks get hot easily, the keyboard PC has much better thermal performance. We’ll see.

K3 Keyboard PC Unboxing

I’ve received the device in a complete bland carton box, so I’ll get the package content immediately.

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The QWERTY keyboard PC comes with a 5V/2.5A power supply, and an “Intel Tablet PC” Quick Start Guide.

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All ports and buttons are on the back of the keyboard with the power button, audio jack, HDMI and VGA outputs, two USB 2.0 host ports, Gigabit Ethernet, the power jack, and a micro SD card slot.

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The keyboard is slightly at a fixed angle, and this cannot be adjusted higher or lower.

K3 Keyboard PC Teardown

Most of the time, a teardown starts on the bottom of the device, but with this keyboard computer, there’s nothing to do here.

K3_Keyboard_PC_BottomInstead you need to slide a sharp tool, preferably in plastic, at the top to take the keyboard itself from the case.

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So we can see why the keyboard can claim better  cooling than sticks, as a metal plate is attached on top of the processor, memory and flash, with a thin thermal pas making contact with a large metal sheet holding the keyboard.

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A close up on the board reveals some of the chips used in the design: Realtek ALC5640 audio codec, Davicom DM9621ANP USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet controller, Genesys Logic GL850G USB hub, Realtek RTL8723BS WiFi module, and Analogix ANX6210 displayPort to VGA converter. The chip in 48 QFN package on the right reads something like SH66F80Q. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but based on the PCB traces it’s used to handle the keyboard. The board is named “K702-Z3735F-V1_1”.

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I had to loosen five screws, including one under the white thermal pad to take out the board. The logo close to the center of the board probably refers to CHIPHD design company, whose website is chiphd dot com (potential harmful site according to Google and Firefox browser), but the company’s contact details are also available on another website. The RTC battery can be found under the black tape on the right, and the three screws with red “glue” and used to hold the cooling metal plate in place.

K3_Keyboard_Processor_CoolingI did not want to mess with that before the review, so I’ve taken a side picture that shows the processor, metal plate and thermal pad.

I’d like to thanks GeekBuying for providing a sample for review, and if you are interested you could purchase the device for $114.99 on their website ($99.99 with FLVMNIMQ coupon). Few other sites sell the product, but it can also be found on eBay, and Banggood. K3 appears to have the same exact design as T20 Keyboard PC that runs both Windows 10 and Android 4.4. I’ll complete the review with performance and reliability testing when time permits.

PiPo K1 is a Windows 10 Bay Trail Keyboard PC

October 20th, 2015 15 comments

Once upon a time keyboard computers were very popular, and some companies have tried to bring keyboard computers back to market in the last few years with limited success. PiPo is giving it a try too with PiPo K1 keyboard PC powered by an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor.

PiPO_K1PiPO K1 preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Bay trail processor (likely Z3735F or Z3736F)
  • System Memory – 2GB
  • Storage – 32 or 64 eMMC + micro SD port
  • Keyboard – QWERTY with multi-touch touchpad
  • Video Output – HDMI and VGA
  • Audio – Stereo speakers
  • Connectivity – Ethernet and WiFi
  • USB – 2x USB host ports
  • Misc – Power button
  • Battery – Maybe…
  • Power – TBD

HDMI_VGA_KeyboardThe keyboard should be pre-installed with Windows 10, and the touchpad support gestures like pinch and zoom. There may also be a battery to be able to use the keyboard from the sofa while connected to WiFi, and using Miracast. PiPO K1 should be available next month, but pricing has not been decided/announced yet. PiPO marketing team must have limited imagination or/and memory, as there’s already a PiPo K1 page, but it’s for a Mediatek based tablet…

Via Netbook Italia

LG Rolly is a Bluetooth Keyboard that Folds into a Stick

August 31st, 2015 4 comments

There are already some flexible Bluetooth keyboards that you can roll into your bag or pocket after being done typing on your smartphone or tablet, but LG is about to launch Rolly Keyboard, a solid Bluetooth keyboard for mobile device that can be rolled into a stick, which should may be sturdier than flexible keyboards, and it can also hold a smartphone or tablet in upright position with a display of up to 10″ in size.


LG’ latest keyboard (model KBB-700) is comprised of 17mm keys – a standard keyboard comes with 18mm keys – arranged into four rows, that can be folded into a stick as shown above. The company also claims the keyboard offers “satisfying tactile feedback not found on flexible silicone keyboards”.

The keyboard is powered by two AAA batteries supposed to last about 3 months during typical use, and pairing over Bluetooth 3.0 occurs automatically to up to two devices as you unfold the keyboard. If the keyboard is paired to two devices, you can switch between them by pressing a key.

The Rolly Keyboard will be unveiled at IFA 2015, and start selling in September in the United States, and soon followed by “key markets” in Europe, Latin America and Asia in Q4 2015. LG did not disclosed pricing nor availability.

Via Connectedly

Various Ways to Control a mini PC without IR Receiver for HTPC Use

April 22nd, 2015 11 comments

Low cost Intel Bay Trail mini PCs such as Pipo X7, MeegoPad T01, MeLE PCG03, etc… almost all share one thing in common: they lack an IR receiver, and for people who’d like to use their box as a dedicated HTPC running Kodi for example, this could be a problem as connecting a keyboard might not the best of solutions. Since I’ve been asked about this recently, I’ve decided to dig into the issue to see what options could be available, and I also hope to trigger a discussion in comments to discover other interesting solutions.

RF Air Mouse

I’m using MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse during my reviews, and such device can be used with HTPC. You just need to connect a tiny USB RF dongle to one of the USB ports of your mini PC, and you’d ready to go with having to configure anything. In Kodi, you would not use the air mouse function, but the remote mode is working well, and you can use the QWERTY side for the rare times when you need to input text.

Mele_F10_DeluxeThis type of device is compliant with USB HID class, so it should work with all common operating systems. MeLE F10 Deluxe sells for about $30, but you can also find cheaper model like Tronsmart TSM01 that goes for $17. Whatever air mouse you choose, make sure a play/pause button is included, as it’s not always a given.

Small form factor RF or Bluetooth Keyboards

If you don’t mind something a little bigger, but still smaller than a full-sized keyboard, a wireless Bluetooth or RF keyboard may be an option, such as the popular Logitech K400, which beside a keyboard also includes a multi-touch touchpad.

Logiteck_K400It should also be easy to setup, as you just need to connect the “USB unifying receiver” to your mini PC, and you’re good to go. Logitech K400 costs $25 on Amazon US. I also mentioned iPazzport KP-810-35BTT Bluetooth keyboard recently with backlit keys, and a touchpad that can be used as a numpad.

USB IR Remotes

If you don’t need something too fancy, and just want to control Kodi with the arrow keys and enter most of the time, you could get a USB IR remote. The cheapest one could be SANOXY Wireless USB PC remote control / mouse that sells for $5 on Amazon US.

Sanoxy_5_Dollars_Remote_ControlThe remote is said to be driverless, so even though the specs says it only works with Windows, it should also work with Linux or other operating systems. You just need to connect the USB IR receiver into a USB port of your mini PC, and it should work. In case of issues, you may have to double check  “Remote control sends keyboard presses” is enabled in “Input Devices” menu. Reviews are mixed on Amazon with some people saying it works great for the price, while others complained it only lasted a few weeks, and the range is 10 feet (3 meters) max.

Use your TV or AV Receiver Remote Control with HDMI CEC

HDMI CEC allows you to control multiple devices over HDMI using a single remote control, and in theory you could use your TV or AV receiver remote control to control Kodi on your mini PC. Unfortunately, HDMI CEC is not usually implemented in computers, but there’s a workaround thanks to HDMI USB CEC adapters such as the one provided by Pulse Eight.

USB_HDMI_CEC_AdapterIt looks pretty straightforward to use: connect the HDMI out and USB port to your mini PC, and the HDMI IN part to your TV or AV receiver, and it will be automatically detected in Kodi, and you should be good to go.

You can buy on Pulse Eight website directly for $44.60, and it’s also available on Amazon US for $49, where you’ll find mixed reviews. I’ve also tried to find Chinese clones / alternatives, but without success.

Remote App with an Android Smartphone

A final way to control your HTPC is to use your smartphone, or if you prefer recycle one of your old smartphone, with a remote control app such as Yatse.

Yatse_Kodi_Remote_ControlThis may not be as easily to use as the other solution above, but it should be much more powerful feature-wise.

That’s all I could come up with, so I’m now eagerly waiting for your suggestions, or just let us know what you use.